It was a bit surprising when Jaguar recently let us loose in Limo Green, the XJ hybrid prototype it’s built in partnership with MIRA, Caparo and Lotus — with funding from the government’s Technology Strategy Board.
Usually when so many competing interests are involved, it’s hard for hacks to get near experimental projects because the bright light of publicity doesn’t suit at least one of the partners, and the rest have to respect it.
But we pitched up at Gaydon, and after a briefing we set out with engineer Steve Nicholls on a nice little driving route through the Warwickshire countryside.
The best thing about it from the driving point of view is that there’s nothing unusual about the car. It drives very much like a real one. The powertrain could hardly more different than a hefty front-mounted petrol or diesel engine: Limo Green is a pure, battery-driven car with a back-to-front Lotus-designed 1.2-litre 60bhp, three-cylinder petrol engine mounted in the nose to drive a generator when the battery starts to run out of power.
There are a few clunks and clicks from various switches and the experimental two-speed — soon to be three-speed — gearbox but you can easily see how the car has the capability to be every bit as quiet and smooth riding as the normal model, with much the same steering feel and brake response.